Presented by: Broadway San Jose
Directed by: Bartlett Sher
Choreographed by: Hofesh Shechter, "inspired" by the original choreography of Jerome Robbins
Music direction by: Ted Sperling
Featuring: Yehezkel Lazarov, Maite Uzal, Jonathan von Mering, Carol Beaugard, Mel Weyn, Ruthy Froch, Natalie Powers, Danielle Allen, Emerson Glick, Jesse Weil, Ryne Nardecchia,Joshua Logan Alexander, Jeffrey Brooks, Danny Arnold, Eric Berey, Nicholas Berke, Eloise DeLuca, Derek Ege, David Ferguson, Olivia Gjurich, Michael Hegarty, Allegra Herman, Carolyn Keller, Paul Morland, Kelly Gabrielle Murphy, Jacob Nahor, Jack O’Brien, Honza Pelichovsky, Leah Platt, Lynda Senisi, Nick Siccone, Brian Silver, and Britte Steele
Running time: 180 minutes, one intermission
When: MAY 21–26, 2019
Where: San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, 255 South Almaden Boulevard, San Jose
Tickets: $43–$153. Visit www.broadwaysanjose.com; in-person at the City National Civic Box Office, 150 West San Carlos Street, San Jose; or call 800-982-2787.
'Fiddler on the Roof'?
“Every one of us is a fiddler on the roof,” says Tevye in the musical of that name, “trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: Tradition!”
It’s Jewish tradition that keeps everyone in their place, knowing their roles. The Papa, the Mama and the children. But Tevye’s traditions, and indeed his balance, are soon cast to the winds, as his daughters start taking their lives into their own hands. Though set in 1905 Russia, the musical was written in the early 1960s, when gender roles were being eroded.
This touring production, which was Tony Award-nominated, breathes new life into the original 1964 Broadway production, which won nine Tony Awards including Best Musical. Any connoisseur of musical theater probably knows Fiddler’s songs by heart, from “Tradition” and “If I Were A Rich Man” to “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and “To Life,” but fewer have had the chance to see it performed on stage. This production is a great reason to get out to the theater and dust the cobwebs off those musical memories.
Yehezkel Lazarov, who plays Tevye, amply fills the shoes left by Zero Mostel on stage and Topol on film, giving real machismo and gusto to “Tradition” and “If I Were A Rich Man,” while at the same time showing his softer side as he asks his wife of 25 years Golde (Maite Uzal), “Do You Love Me?”
Uzal’s Golde is the consummate Jewish mother and wife, bossing around Tevye and their five daughters, while also conspiring with Yente the Matchmaker (Carol Beaugard) to find each of them a suitable husband. When Lazer Wolf the butcher, a widower (Jonathan von Mering), announces his interest in eldest daughter Tzeitel (Mel Weyn), Tevye and Golde are rather pleased, as Lazer is not short of shekels. Unfortunately, Tzeitel has secretly plighted her troth to childhood friend and penniless tailor Motel Kamzoil (played with a nice whimpish touch by Jesse Weil).
As Tevye has agreed to Lazer’s offer over a bottle of brandy (singing “To Life!”) this leaves the dairyman in a bit of a quandary. He doesn’t want to dash his daughter’s hopes of a happy life with the man she loves, but has to somehow convince Mrs. Tevye (Golde, the one with the big voice) that the match with Lazer has some downsides. This he does by pretending to have a dream in which Lazer’s deceased wife Fruma-Sarah (Olivia Gjurich) warns him of dire consequences should Tzeitel marry Lazer. The dream sequence is wonderful, with Fruma-Sarah on stilts towering above the stage. Golde is convinced and lets Tevye renege on the agreement with Lazer, and Tzeitel gets to marry Motel.
The wedding ceremony starts off traditional (Orthodox) Jewish, with the men separated from the women, and some wonderful Cossack-style dancing, with full-on Kozasky moves as well as the famous, heart-stopping bottle dance where the dancers balance bottles on their heads. The Klezmer music is authentic, and no-one has to go to jail for playing the accordion. But once again, tradition is swept away as daughter number two’s heartthrob Perchik (Ryne Nardecchia) grabs her for a spin on the floor. Tevye seems to know that his beloved traditions are ebbing away, and pulls wife Golde out for a dance too.
Sadly, the festivities are interrupted by the constable (an imposing Jeff Brooks) and his bully-boys, who smash up the place as part of the pogroms sweeping Tsarist Russia. The Jews, once again, are told to sell everything and leave the village they have called home for so long. “It’s why we always keep our hats on,” says Tevye. His traditions and even his family are blown to the winds, as daughter number three Chava (Natalie Powers) has decided to marry a gentile, making her dead to Tevye.
The three eldest sisters who sing — Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava — played by Mel Weyn, Ruthy Froch and Natalie Powers, have excellent voices, topped only by Lazarov’s Tevye and Uzal’s Golde.
Sheldon Harnick’s original lyrics have stood the test of time and Jerry Bock’s music is still a delight. Oran Eldor’s dance arrangements of Jerome Robbins’ original choreography are wonderful (especially at the wedding). Michael Yeargan’s set designs are evocative without being intrusive.
We are serenaded at the end by the fiddler, dressed in purple like some Jewish Prince. He’s kept his balance all right, but the Jews of Anatevka must start new lives in a new country — America.